Imagination

“Following the footsteps of a rag doll dance” – Top of the Pops, 4 June 1981

Richard Skinner“Yes, it’s Top of the Pops with today eleven top acts!” Six months on from Richard Skinner’s first solo hosting gig and Operation Make Skinner Look Less Like A Newsreader And More Like A Human Being is finally seeing some results. The regulation grey sweater has been ditched in favour of a bright white polo shirt with red and yellow bands resembling elongated Spanish flags, and Richard has wisely chosen to do the opening link on his own, lest his increasing appeal should see him mobbed by screaming fans and dragged off stage as almost happened a few months back. As is now apparently de rigueur, Skinner is also sporting a tiny button badge on his left breast which we never quite get close enough to read, although it may be similar to this one promoting Edinburgh indie band TV21 – if so, it’s a display of allegiance which does far more for Skinner’s street cred than his taste in shirts does.


See the full top 75 for this week on the Official Charts Website.

SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES – Spellbound (#29)

Siouxsie & The BansheesKnowing with hindsight that we’re just weeks away from the début of Yellow Pearl isn’t helping the start of these shows; in fact if anything it’s making the continued lack of a proper opening sequence even more unsatisfying. Still, it does mean we get thrown straight into “a rare TV appearance from Siouxsie and the Banshees,” according to Skinner anyway. Not sure it’s particularly rare; okay, it’s been over a year since they were on TOTP with Happy House but that clip was shown three times and it was only The Event that stopped them performing the follow-up hit Christine. Spellbound was their first top forty hit since then and, like Christine a year ago and Fireworks a year from now, it peaked at number 22. Unlike the effortless cool of Happy House though, this time around Siouxsie is in full goth sex goddess mode, cracking her microphone cable like a whip and commanding the stage in a leather mini skirt and thigh-high boots. The section of the adolescent male viewing population who didn’t feel stirrings when they saw Kim Wilde in the shower a few weeks ago have now had a sudden awakening.

SHAKIN’ STEVENS – You Drive Me Crazy (#2)

Shakin' StevensNo such adolescent stirrings here as Shaky’s performance from two weeks ago gets a first BBC Four outing. After more than a decade in the business Shaky has finally achieved overnight success as You Drive Me Crazy becomes the second of eleven top five hits over the next seven years. Fortunately his years of experience allow him to maintain a professional detachment from the antics of the audience whose clumsy clapping soon results in people being elbowed in the face, while the blonde girl in the short skirt on whom the director has obviously pinned all his hopes can’t even decide whether to kick her legs on the off or on beat. It’s a complete shambles, except for Shaky who just ignores everyone else and does his standard hip swivelling, mic stand abusing routine while patiently waiting for Adam and the Ants to stand aside and let him claim another number 1. They never did.

KATE ROBBINS & BEYOND – More Than In Love (#13)

Kate RobbinsAs a serious journalist (albeit in a stripy shirt), Skinner is never averse to asking random bystanders about current events, so it’s natural that he should employ the services of the young lady next to him to introduce the next song. Unfortunately the hapless crowd member manages to call it “More Than I’m In Love”, leaving Skinner to give a look to camera which clearly says “Please don’t make me do this again.” More Than (I’m) In Love was that rarest of things: a spin-off hit from TV soap Crossroads. Wings had previously covered the theme tune and the remarkable Benny’s Theme had somehow made number 38 back in 1978, but this was the real deal. At the time Kate Robbins was a member of the Crossroads cast, playing a singer who recorded this song in the motel’s conveniently placed recording studio – because what self respecting motel doesn’t have a recording studio in the basement? Although Kate is probably best remembered these days for doing the voices for Spitting Image, she did have some previous as a singer and had already appeared on TOTP last year as a member of Eurovision hopefuls Prima Donna. Glossing over the fact that in chart terms their Love Enough For Two was the UK’s least successful Eurovision entry for well over a decade, More Than In Love went all the way to number 2, probably thanks more to its relentless plugging on Crossroads than this shiny-haired, shiny-trousered TOTP performance; indeed the song’s co-writer and producer Simon May did exactly the same thing again five years later when Nick Berry’s Every Loser Wins featured heavily in EastEnders. Maybe the BBC Four run will have stopped by then.

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SQUEEZE – Is That Love? (#40)

Squeeze“That’s Kate Robbins, a girl at a crossroads in her life, I guess you could say!” You could, Richard, but most of us wouldn’t. Squeeze next, and it’s hard to comprehend that only two years earlier Difford and Tilbrook were at their commercial peak with Cool For Cats and Up The Junction both reaching number 2. Since then their popularity had taken an inexplicable nosedive; their previous single Pulling Mussels (From The Shell) had stalled at number 44 and there was a full year’s gap before Is That Love? tentatively dipped its toe in the shallow end of the top forty. In the interim keyboardist Jools Holland had departed for a shot at a solo career and been replaced by Paul Carrack, formerly of Ace who reached the top twenty in 1974 with How Long. Still, at least that meant there was no more cigar smoking in the studio and Glenn Tilbrook’s ability to deliver the song while looking directly into the camera at all times remains undiminished. Is That Love? remains one of the band’s best singles and if anyone can explain why it only got to number 35, do let us know.

IMAGINATION – Body Talk (#43)

Imagination“Just squeezing into the charts at number forty…” Oh Richard, please don’t. Next up, if Limbs & Co were regularly knowingly referred to as “something for the dads”, here’s something for the mums as we witness the TOTP début of BritFunk boyband Imagination. Led by the improbably spelt Leee John, Imagination had five top twenty hits over the next year, all of which sounded exactly the bloody same. Tonight the fellas set out their stall for the coming months, all gold lamé, pelvic gyrations and trousers tight enough to make Errol Brown wince. That’s except for Leee John, who’s not wearing any trousers. In fact his constant shimmying makes it hard to establish exactly what he is wearing, but his legs are certainly well ventilated at all times, especially when he drapes himself provocatively over the electric piano which he has long since given up pretending to play and instead adopted as a metaphorical sexual partner, ironically leaving very little to the imagination. By the end of the song John has taken to throwing roses into the crowd while drummer Errol Kennedy decides his trousers weren’t getting enough attention and joins bassist Ashley Ingram centre stage. Body Talk had taken four weeks to get to number 43 but this spectacle would push the single into the all-important top forty and it eventually climbed to number 4.

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THE JAM – Funeral Pyre (#4)

The JamBody Talk, and it doesn’t leave much to the imagination, does it?” Oi! Watch it, Skinner, I’ve already done that joke. From the shiny, sensual purrings of Imagination we move incongruously to a rather dim, grimy video for The Jam’s latest hit (“expensively filmed in Surrey,” sneers Skinner) which has crashed into the chart at number 4 despite being staunchly uncommercial and one of the band’s least well remembered hits. For some reason Weller and friends have set up their equipment in a forest at dusk and started playing to no-one in particular; this footage is intercut with shots of some other randoms wandering around with flaming torches and stock footage of people throwing books on a bonfire. The compliance department completely misses both instances of the phrase “pissing themselves laughing” in the lyrics, but in all fairness nobody’s really listening that hard and even the Daily Mail didn’t notice. Funeral Pyre spent two weeks at number 4 before plummeting; thankfully we cut away from the video and back to the studio before Rick Buckler is burned in a wicker man.

MICHAEL JACKSON – One Day In Your Life (#12)

Legs & Co“I think it’s fair to say The Jam are really setting the charts on fire with that!” No. No, Richard, it isn’t. A bit of decorum now as, having sat back and watched their former charge score a brace of hits on another label, the Motown bigwigs unleash their secret weapon: a Michael Jackson song that had previously failed to chart in 1975. What? How can this compete with the unstoppable might of Off The Wall? Well, mainly by being even more emotionally charged than Michael’s previous hit She’s Out Of My Life. Whereas that Michael was resigned to an irreconcilable breakup, this younger Michael still retains a naïve hope that the object of his affections will eventually realise what a terrible mistake she’s made and come back to him. Quite how this wasn’t a hit first time around remains a mystery but justice was eventually served and One Day In Your Life would deservedly become Jackson’s first solo number one single in the UK; even Limbs & Co in dresses made out of recycled plastic bottles and apparently dancing to a completely different song around a mock-up of Stonehenge can’t mess this up.

TOYAH – I Want To Be Free (#8)

Toyah“Michael Jackson and the movement of Legs & Co,” announces Skinner, his years of journalistic training preventing him from using the word “dancing” lest anyone should query the accuracy of his reporting. The first bit of the top thirty countup next, before we return to the infantile hysterics of Toyah Willcox, still refusing to go to school at the age of 23. Sadly we don’t get to see her performance on the Kenny Everett Television Show in which her bizarre leaping antics were recreated by Everett himself doing exactly the same performance but with a beard. Instead we’re treated to the video which opens with Toyah petulantly knocking a mountain of plastic cutlery off a table, after which she crawls around on all fours for a bit, demolishes a wedding cake with her bare hands, empties a box of washing powder into the air, throws some flowers around and escapes from the director’s attempt to curb her destructive antics by wrapping her in Bacofoil. Bedtime is strictly 7:30 from now on, missy.

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PHIL COLLINS – If Leaving Me Is Easy (#44)

Phil CollinsIt’s a show of contrasts this week and no mistake. After the next bit of the charts we descend all the way to number 44 for yet another solo performance from Phil Collins, who has now been on the show three times as often as Genesis. With a Simon Bates lookalike on saxophone, a barely audible trumpeter and that bloody paintpot perched on top of his keyboard again, Collins meanders through an inconsequential ballad which has neither the catchiness of I Missed Again nor the strange otherworldliness of In The Air Tonight. In fact, as Phil wanders through seemingly endless verses in a desperate search for anything vaguely resembling a chorus, it’s hard not to lose interest in the song and start wondering if the electric piano Phil’s playing is the same one Leee John rubbed himself against earlier on. I’d wash your hands if I were you, Phil. Despite lacking any kind of memorable hook, If Leaving Me Is Easy continued Collins’s run of solo hits by reaching number 17 in a few weeks’ time. Richard Skinner even muses that it could be a future number one. He is wrong.

ADAM AND THE ANTS – Stand and Deliver (#1)

Adam and the AntsOn with the top ten then, all illustrated by the now regulation video clips except Hazel O’Connor at number ten, whose appearance on the show last week is apparently not as interesting as the camera slowly zooming into a still photo of Hazel and band. There must be a technical reason why this keeps happening, but it remains a mystery. Adam and his Ants are still at number 1, but this week Skinner promises us “the new full version” of the video, which turns out to involve repeated shots of Adam making an uninvited entrance through a closed window in lieu of the hanging scene. Because repeatedly jumping through glass is much safer than simulated hanging, kids; do remember to try this at home. It’s all academic anyway as this was Stand and Deliver‘s last week at the top. We play out with Odyssey’s Going Back To My Roots, the uncontrollable dancing throng co-opting Skinner into their midst as they throw themselves around vaguely in time with the track. All the cool kids remain straight faced and dance as efficiently as possible with the minimum of movement, in contrast to the joyous leaping of someone who looks so much like Timmy Mallett it must surely be him. Just think, in less than a decade Mallett will be on the show in his own right. What a terrifying prospect.

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